“‘Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ This is the declaration of the Lord God. ‘Instead, don’t I take pleasure when he turns from his ways and lives?'”
Sometimes people think that God is somehow out to get them.
In Chapter 18 the prophet Ezekiel provides a highly detailed explanation to refute the notion that God punishes the innocent for the sins of others. Ezekiel clarifies that each individual bears personal responsibility for his or her own sin (see also 33:7-20).
“There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ ‘What do you mean?’ exclaimed Nicodemus. ‘How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?'” (John 3:1-4, NLT).
It has been said that perception is reality. In fact, this view could be the mantra of the post-modern era.
The well-known account of the encounter of Nicodemus and Jesus is a story of how people often accept their own flawed perceptions and misconceptions as reality.
“As they approached, Jesus said, ‘Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.’ ‘How do you know about me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, ‘I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.’ Then Nathanael exclaimed, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!’ Jesus asked him, ‘Do you believe this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.’ Then he said, ‘I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.’ ” (John 1:47-51, NLT).
Almost all the words spoken by Jesus and recorded in the Gospels quote Old Testament Scriptures or make an allusion to an Old Testament story or event. That is the case here with the calling of Nathanael as one of Jesus’ disciples.
“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:9, NLT).
When God saved you, He didn’t do it because you deserved it but because your salvation was always His plan. God’s purpose for His creation has always been determined and redemption is the way He mediates His plan.
“God our Savior…wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human, who gave Himself–a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:3-6, NLT).
If you are one of those laconic people who likes things stated simply, concisely, and succinctly, then you definitely like this summation of the gospel written by the Apostle Paul in his first letter to Timothy.
“Set your sights on the realities of heaven…For you have died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1,3, NLT).
Every once in a while we need to stop and remind ourselves that the life that we live in this world is not our real life. It’s a virtual reality and eternal life is the real reality. That’s why Paul admonishes us to “think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth” in verse 2.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV).
The Apostle Paul is not suggesting the the Philippians should try to earn their salvation by doing good works.
“You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7, NLT).
We know from explanations later in this letter to the Galatians that some were teaching that Gentile Christians had to follow the Mosaic law.
“For God has imprisoned everyone in disobedience so he could have mercy on everyone.” (Romans 11:32, NLT).
In Romans 9-11 the Apostle Paul addressed the theological question raised by the Roman Christians about the unbelief of so many Jews. Why had God promised salvation to Israel, His chosen people, and so few Jews were being saved?
“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should” (I Corinthians 9:24-27, NLT).
In these verses the Apostle Paul explains that one’s salvation is not a single occurrence, a bi-monthly activity, or even a semi-annual event. It is a way of life that requires daily discipline and training.